Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yet Another Lecture

Last Thursday, we were made to attend yet another lecture. But hey, I wouldn't complain since we were skipping my least-favorite class (Menu Development - honestly, is there much to say about menus that shouldn't already be common sense?).

Our school was graced by the presence of Michael Ruhlman, famous author. He's written books like " The Making of a Chef", "The Soul of a Chef", "The Reach of a Chef", and most recently, "Ratio". I read his first two books well before I started culinary school.

He'd always wanted to be a writer and was suddenly struck by the dedication and passion behind chefs. So, he enrolled at our school in the culinary program back in the '90s and wrote a book about it (The Making of a Chef). Maybe this book had some small part in me wanting to come to this school, but honestly I can't remember, it was so long ago! It'd be interesting to read it again now and see how it compares to my present life. I'm sure it'd be something close to reading one of my own journals.

He was animated, interesting, and inspiring until he started adding in some swear words. I just thought that was unnecessary and very unprofessional. Sure, maybe he was trying to relate to those of us in the industry who are crude, rude and obtuse. But we're not all like that, and to behave like that in a school atmosphere was lame, in my opinion.

He did give some good advice though:
- Apply what you learn as a chef to your daily life: be regimented, don't say "no", take on any challenges, make them happen. I could identify with this. On externship, we were never able to say that we ran out of something. Our chef wouldn't allow it. You absolutely had to make things work. I had days where I just thought there was no way that I would have everything done before the service started. But I made it happen somehow. Chefs don't run away from challenges, they work with them and make them happen. There's none of this pansy "I-can't-do-it" attitude.

- Keep your surface clean: remove all obstacles that get in the way of success. There's a brick wall? Figure out how to get over, around or through it. Clear off the scraps, sanitize your surface, and get to work. Keep it neat and organized. Messes = confusion.

- Give and share information: I agree with this. A long time ago, everything was a secret. Good things died with people who refused to share. The whole world is at a loss then. Chefs should share information and knowledge with each other to help our industry improve.

- Be aware, pay attention to what's around you: I do my best at this. When I first moved away from home, it was weird to not have a newspaper on the table every day to look at. I felt totally removed from the world, in a bubble, with only what was in front of me. Now, I try to keep up on events everywhere. I look in my local papers from home (Hawai'i and California), read CNN and NPR, and even pay attention to food blogs to see what's going on. I think this is a good way to get ideas too.

- Don't let anyone else set your standards.

- Write everything down that you can: Mr. Ruhlman talked about how he typed everything up at the end of each day here at school. I had to laugh at myself then because that's pretty much what I do now. In my first and second semesters of school, I was learning so much. I sent emails out to family and a few friends daily about what I was learning. I know it helped them to learn too, and now I have a written log of everything. I'm hoping this will turn out to be beneficial in the future. I also have TONS of notes! I try to write e v e r y t h i n g down!

-Actively seek out information, be curious, ask questions: I also feel like I've been doing well in this area. I've made it more of a point to go to lectures when I can, speak up and ask questions, talk to professors and chefs after class about things that interest me, and most importantly, read about what I don't know.

All in all, it was worth my time to be there, but I wasn't starstruck by Mr. Ruhlman. I sort of wished I'd had my books there for him to sign (ok maybe that would've been cool), but I knew they were in a box somewhere in California, waiting for me there.
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